Parminder Gill has had a long career in sales, marketing and entrepreneurship. He has worked extensively in the IT and education sector. Due to his entrepreneurial spirit, Parminder started two ventures belonging to IT and Education.
Parminder was concerned after seeing the state of children getting hooked on television and computer. With experience in handling roles in large, medium and start-up firms in India, he tried several ideas on direct B2C model for improving sports education system, which eventually led to the formation of EduSports.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
As parents, we were aware that our kids were increasingly getting hooked to TV & computers instead of engaging in physical activity. Unlike in our generation, kids today do not have healthy, and safe social avenues to play and connect with each other. Just like us, most parents we know, also wanted their children to play and stay healthy, but there just were not enough opportunities for children to have a fun experience around sports. After trying various ideas on a direct B2C model, we realized that schools might be the right partners for helping children experience the magic of sport. And that was the start of EduSports journey.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
In mid-2008, we started knocking on school doors with the idea of making sports an integral part of education. Out of 100 schools that we tried to reach, 90 threw us out saying “Parents don’t want sports for their kids; they want their children to only learn mathematics and science”. But 10 of them said, “That is interesting. Tell us more”. Of these 10, three said, “Where have you been all this while? I know my sports program is broken, but I don’t know how to fix it!”
When we started, we only had the desire to get children to play in schools.
Some of the early schools trusted our sincerity and decided to give us a chance – but also challenged us on how we are going to actually execute the program throughout the year. In partnership with the schools and with a sharp focus on ensuring that the on-ground program delivery is world-class, we kept iterating and fine tuning the various tools used to deliver the program with accountability & transparency.
How did you overcome those challenges?
At the start of the EduSports journey, we had to evolve to lay emphasis on the program for the junior school kids and not the middle school segment. The nursery-5th standard age group was better suited to the program demands of most school leaders since they saw a huge gap in the early childhood years when it came to sports and physical education. At the same time, schools didn’t see enough value in just the content-technology platform model which we had zeroed upon as the core product for EduSports. The wanted us to ensure the delivery of the program as well. This meant recruiting and training of PE teachers, something we had never envisioned.
The EduSports program required at least one qualified and trained resource to be present in every school. Till date, availability of highly-skilled graduates from a sports/PE background is the biggest challenge to scale. After few initial hiccups, when the EduSports program gathered momentum across the country, it brought with it a different set of challenges; a majority of which were related to scaling the service delivery model in remote locations.
The entire operations team had to be prepared to service a tier-2/3 city and we required the manpower to execute the program on the ground. Thankfully, we had the reporting platform in place, which helped us track the program delivery in remote places.
Today, EduSports is present in more than 200 cities in the country and through its operations, hiring and training teams, can help set-up a school with a minimal lead time.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
EduSports focuses on building a sustainable & scalable model for getting children to play by helping schools deliver sports as an integral part of every child’s education.
EduSports uses Structured Physical activity & Sports as a pedagogical tool for developing mental skills, behavioral skills and physical conditioning in children with periodic assessments. In the graphic below, the bottom 3 layers are common to all schools. The top layer services are optional, and are designed to keep the children engaged throughout the year.
The EduSports program has the following design principles:
- Age-appropriate activities & equipment
- Adequate equipment for all children to stay engaged
- Inclusion i.e. all children get to play. Not only the talented ones.
- Each child gets assessed and fitness/skill parameters tracked.
- Designed for limited space & time. Our program fits into the school’s constraints of limited space & time.
- Parent engagement – Ensuring parents participate in the process of building healthier & fitter children
What is your life mantra?
To keep learning by working the new challenges life presents, and through these learnings, hopefully leave a little better place than the one I found myself in.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business?
We (Parminder Gill, Saumil Majmudar, Jyoti Majmudar and Meer Waqiruddin Khaleeq) had invested a total of Rs 2.5 crore in this venture, partly drummed out of our savings, and the rest coming from the parent company SportzVillage as well as angel funding. Then, in January 2010, we were fortunate to get a fund infusion worth $2 million (Rs 1.09 crore) from Seedfund. In October 2015 Gaja capital – a private equity firm invested 10mn $ in SportzVillage (the parent company of Edusports).
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain? Tell us about your company’s attrition control practices.
I think at a deeper level, it is our vision (of getting kids to play and building a healthier & fitter society) and value system (you can call it the EduSports culture) that keeps people with us. We have also been lucky in that we are a very unique organization (a pioneer and a category creator), and have always attracted very enthusiastic and talented individuals from different backgrounds volunteering to work for us. It is easier to retain people when the work you do aligns with their personal goals and interests.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
While success (at least from a materialistic standpoint) depends upon many factors – including some that you may not have much control on. But I would rate perseverance (or stamina), ability to work with and inspire others, and openness to new experiences as some of the qualities that can help one move forward in one’s career.
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
Apart from many business applications we use in EduSports, I would recommend a good online/ notes app (Evernote, OneNote etc), and perhaps a mobile business card scanner – they can be great productivity enhancers. I also find reading on Amazon’s Kindle very efficient when I am traveling.
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Rising early in the morning!
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
I still fight the battle of procrastinating ‘important but not urgent’ items on my ‘to-do’ list
Answer in less than 50 words
Being truthful & honest to yourselves. This quality helps you know your strengths and competencies better, and seek right kind of help at the right time – which is so important when you are working in teams.
- One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
While work is important, one must take mandatory ‘breaks’ on what I call as ‘nourishing your body and soul’ – this could mean books, traveling, visiting old friends and near-ones, sport, music, leisure or whatever else works for you. This investment can actually make one more productive at ‘work’, and can help one sustain for a long haul.
- One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
Life always gives you second and sometimes a third, and even a fourth chance! Which means, whenever you feel that you have missed the bus, another one comes in shortly and surely, as long as you hang around long enough.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
With our strong understanding of sports and PE, we are constantly innovating by developing new products for enhancing the sports experience for schools & children and effectively engaging with parents.
- EduSports plans to reach 1000 schools and 1 million children in the next 2 years.
- We are working on a new initiative called DISHA to build performance and personality based platforms for schools. DISHA integrates the in-school PE/ sports program with the after-school/ specialized sports program.
- We have also tied up with Governments of Haryana, Maharashtra and Punjab. In this program a total of 3781 students from 128 schools are currently undergoing the skill development program provided by EduSports. EduSports trains these students in the skills and competencies required to engage back with the society and offer essential services in teaching physical education, sports and fitness to children in schools. We plan to tie up with more number of state Governments to implement similar vocational training programs in PE & Sports
What are your top three getaway destinations?
Up-country areas around Bangalore, Kerala (most of it), Himalayas in the North, and perhaps some parts of Europe (Italy, France) and South-west USA
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
Take it little slow this time.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in their face”. This one is attributed to Mike Tyson.